Tackling inequalities: making a difference to the HIV landscape in Nigeria

It’s our 35th anniversary next year!

It was in 1987 that our founder, Dr Patrick Dixon, working as a cancer doctor in the UK, could see very clearly the inequalities that people living with HIV and AIDS were facing in hospitals at the time. These inequalities were fuelled by ignorance, fear, and stigma, even amongst the medical community.

Patrick felt stirred by God and was so moved by compassion that he decided to do something about these inequalities. He wrote a book called The Truth About AIDS and our charity, ACET, was officially born in 1988!

The work started out as home-based care in London – caring for people living with HIV and AIDS. This work expanded to other parts of the UK, and to other countries, and training and education programmes were also established.

Sadly, although there have been fantastic steps forward in tackling AIDS over the past 4 decades, inequality is still a core reason why the HIV pandemic continues to have such a devasting impact on so many communities around the world.

With the 2030 goal of ending AIDS as a global health threat fast approaching, there needs to be a renewed global effort to equalize.

Take Nigeria for example.

Nigeria has the highest number of annual HIV infections among children in the world (14% of the global total), late diagnosis is a significant issue, and progress in preventing mother-to-child transmission has been much slower than in other countries.

‘Traditions’ such as child marriage (44% of Nigerian girls are married before they are 18) fuel inequality as these girls are more likely to drop out of school, have children of their own at a young age, experience violence in the home, and have poorer health outcomes.

Our HIV prevention programme in Nigeria has a strong focus on tackling inequalities faced by the communities where our partner works. Inequalities that are key drivers of HIV transmission. This includes gender inequality but also inequalities in accessing education, testing, counselling, and relevant medical services.

Our ACET Nigeria colleagues are working hard to create a gender-equal society through educating children, young people, and adults about the huge potential of both girls and boys, addressing harmful gender norms, and raising up male and female ambassadors to champion girls and women.

Following sessions at an ACET Nigeria Children’s Club where relationships education is taught, Obiajulu, an 11-year-old boy said,

“I learnt that boys and girls are equal. We have also started cooking yummy foods together. I didn’t know that boys can cook food too because I only saw mums cooking in my community.”

Older children (13-18 years old) attend ACET Esteem Clubs and they continue to receive strong messages about gender equality there. Jamilah, 15 said,

“Esteem Clubs in our school are the best clubs because they are the only clubs that address issues of relationship and sex, self-esteem, and puberty. These are issues that affect me and my friends. If we did not have the guidance, we could be victims of early marriage and pregnancy like many others in my community. Lots of girls drop out of school, or contract HIV or STIs which prevents them from achieving their dreams.”

We are expanding these clubs in 2023, to ensure that 2,395 children and young people (girls and boys) will receive education in Children’s and Esteem Clubs that challenges harmful gender stereotypes and inspires both girls and boys to reach their potential.

Education must take place at every level of society for real change to happen.

So ACET Nigeria will build on its successful work of training community leaders to deliver gender equality and better parenting programs to 500 more community members in 2023. This will help to break the cycle of inequitable relationships and gender-based violence.

Inequalities also prevent people living with HIV from accessing the care, treatment, and support that they need.

ACET Nigeria is addressing this by reaching vast numbers of vulnerable people with transformative community education programs that bust myths about HIV transmission, tackle stigma and discrimination, and provide easy access to testing and counselling.

6,000 people will be reached across 5 states next year, including 700 vulnerable pregnant women – often a key group that struggles to access the medical care they need.

We are so grateful to all of the supporters of our work. It is through the generous donations of our supporters that we are seeing real shifts in mindsets about girls and women, and this is so encouraging.

However, there are many more people to reach, so we must grow this work to ensure that girls and women are able to thrive, and have access to the education and skills they need to have positive health outcomes and the opportunity to take control of their futures.

We are raising funds for this work through The Big Give Christmas Challenge. It would be fantastic if you could consider giving. Your donation will have twice the impact as donations will be DOUBLED until midday 6th December.

Thank you!

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